Dining and Kitchen Tables for Small Spaces

Bistro table with two stools
SEPTEMBER 23, 2016

by Martha Ostergar

Home Decor Specialist

If you have a small kitchen, there are three things to consider when choosing a table: height, adaptability, and shape. Counter- or bar-height tables can help draw up the eye, making the room feel bigger. Extendable and drop-leaf tables are a great option that are a little more adaptable to your space. A round table usually takes up less space, but a square table can easily be pushed into a corner. Read on to learn how to make the most of your small space.

Small round table with two chairs

Traditional Shapes

Round or square, traditional dining table shapes can work in a small space. Your choice will depend on where you want to place your table and how many people will typically use it.

There’s no shortage of style options when choosing a table with a traditional shape. But for legroom purposes, you may wish to consider a pedestal table. Just make sure there’s enough weight and balance in the base to keep the table from wobbling or tipping.

If only one or two people will sit at the table on a regular basis, a square table placed in a corner or against a wall can free up valuable floor space. If more people will regularly sit around your small kitchen table, a free-standing table in any shape will likely work better.

Use the chart below to choose the right dimensions for your space and for the amount of people you want to seat.

Table Sizing Chart for Seats
Bistro table with two wide stools

Tall Tables

The great thing about a taller table is that the added height lets the table double as a prep space, which is a major advantage in a small kitchen. Plus a higher table draws the eye up, creating an illusion that they are taking up less space. There are two choices when it comes to taller tables: counter-height and bar-height.

Counter-Height Tables: Counter-height tables — which are also known as bistro tables — are often sold as outdoor furniture, but they work in small spaces inside too. They range from 34” to 36” high. Generally these tables are round, so revisit the chart above to find the best size for your needs.

Bar-Height Tables: The only real difference between bar-height and counter-height tables is, well, the height. These tables — which are also called pub tables — are 40” to 42” tall.

If you are not buying your tall table in a set, it is essential to check the height of the chairs against your table, as bar-height and counter-height tables are easily confused. Generally you’ll need at least 12 inches between the seat of the chair and the underside of the table.

Small drop-leaf table with two chairs

Expandable and Drop-Leaf Tables

Small-space living usually means getting creative with storage and multi-purpose or space-saving furniture. Extendable and drop-leaf tables are just the ticket to easily manipulate your furniture into fitting your day-by-day needs.

Extendable Tables: Just because you have a small dining space doesn’t mean you don’t like to entertain. An expandable table comes with leaves that extend a small table for a the-more-the-merrier get-together. But that’s not the only advantage of an extendable table. You can also use the larger space for extra kitchen prep, to work from home, or to practice your favorite hand-crafting hobby.

Drop-Leaf Tables: A drop-leaf table has a similar function to an expandable table, but many drop-leafs downsize to a width of just a few inches, making it easy to push fully out of the way when not in use. Some tables drop both sides and some attach to the wall and drop only one side, so your choice is merely based in preference.

Rectangle pub table with two tall stools

Seating and Chairs for Small Tables

If you choose to buy a table that doesn’t come in a set with chairs, there are a few things to consider.

First, make sure the chairs will fit all the way under your new table, both in height and width. The space between the seat of the chair and the tabletop should be around 12”. Chairs with arms add bulk that makes it difficult to squish in more seating when needed. And since you often can’t push them all the way under the table, chairs with arms can stick out several inches from the edge of the table, taking up valuable space.

Second, consider folding chairs, which can easily be stored in a closet or against a wall to free up space. You don’t have to settle for cold and clunky metal folding chairs. There are several wood options available that are narrower and slimmer. Some even collapse to be completely flat.

Third, benches are a practical alternative to chairs. A bench against a wall with a small table makes a booth as cozy as the one at your favorite local eatery. Plus a bench with a hinged seat can double as storage in your small space.

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Martha Ostergar

by Martha Ostergar

Home Decor Specialist

Small living spaces have always been a part of Martha’s life — eight siblings will do that to you. Being creative with small spaces isn’t Martha’s only creative skill. She writes and edits with verve and passion, plus she sews, knits, and embroiders more than a healthy human probably should.